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May 29, 2011

Sock Monkey Meets Karen Peterson

Last week Sock Monkey attended the spring meeting for the National Center for Women in Information Technology and had a chance to meet with Karen Peterson of the National Girl's Collaborative Project.

CSTA and NGCP are currently working on a project called the Computer Science Collaborative Project which is dedicated to improving computer science content in informal education programs across the country.


Posted by cstephenson at 03:03 PM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2011

CSTA Becomes a Founding Member of PACE

Last month, CSTA Executive Director Chris Stephenson and I attended the organizational meeting for the Partnership for Advancing Computing Education or PACE. PACE was formed with the goal to "provide a basis for computing education organizations to communicate, cooperate and collaborate on activities that will advance the state of computing education."

Founding member organizations include CSTA, National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), IEEE Computer Society, Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and Association for Information Systems (AIS). Mark Guzdial was appointed as the Director (you might want to check out Mark's picture with the CSTA Sock Monkey in an earlier post) with Lecia Barker of NCWIT as chairperson and Andrew McGettrick as assistant chair of the Board.

CSTA hopes that the relationship with PACE and the other members will enhance our efforts to improve K-12 education. Each year, CSTA will send two representatives to the annual meeting of PACE with periodic phone conference calls in the interim. The goal for the organization within the next year is to increase the number of member organizations from five to ten.

If you know of an organization that is interested in joining PACE, contact CSTA and we can forward the information to Mark.

Dave Burkhart
CSTA Board of Directors

Posted by cstephenson at 10:28 AM | Comments (2)

May 19, 2011

Sock Monkey and His Friend Jan Cuny

There is almost no one in our community that has been a better friend of computer science education than Jan Cuny of the National Science Foundation. Here, Sock Monkey is showing appreciation to Jan for her work on broadening participation, the development of the AP CS Principles course, and the 10K Teachers project.


Posted by cstephenson at 04:31 PM | Comments (1)

May 18, 2011

Did You Know?

I've viewed several versions of "Did You Know" videos in the past few years and the newer, somewhat different takes on this video never bore me. They all stress one basic theme: "We are currently preparing students for jobs and technologies that don't yet exist using technologies that haven't been invented in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet [1]." I hope you can find a few minutes to view the following versions. They may be the catalyst for great class discussions!

[1] Shift happens Educational 2010:

[2] Did you know 4.0 (2009 version - technology based facts)

Now you know!!!

Fran Trees
CSTA Chapter Liaison

Posted by cstephenson at 01:55 PM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2011

CS&IT and Summertime PD

The flowers are blooming (finally) here in Massachusetts so spring has indeed arrived, which means, summer is not too far away. Some of us think, can it get here fast enough? For most teachers, summertime is a time of rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Since we have such a long period of time off, it's an opportune time for new learning. Now is the time to start planning out your summer professional development. If you haven't already signed up, the CS&IT Symposium will be held in New York City on July 11-13th.

The outstanding workshops and sessions offered can be seen here:


Workshops are filling up fast, so act now.

In addition to the Symposium, there are many more workshops offered throughout the summer. ISTE 2011 will be held in Philadelphia on June 26-29th. This immense conference offers diverse workshops and exposure to vendors that will both amaze and inspire any attendee.

On the local level, most regions offer Advanced Placement Computer Science Institutes to prepare for or refresh your skills for that course.

Many universities, in partnership with Google, are offering CS4HS workshops, the focus of which is to "develop a thriving community of high school CS teachers and spread the word about the awe and beauty of computing."

The summer is another great time to take a CS course at a local college or university to brush up on your skills or to learn a new technology.

What do you have planned for your summer refreshment?

Do you know of other professional development opportunities that you can add to the list to share with your colleagues?

Karen Lang
CSTA Board of Directors

Posted by cstephenson at 12:01 PM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2011

Needing to Be Vigilant About Gender Issues

Having women in the department is just step one. But then there is the issue of how teaching assignments are distributed. There I was, idly looking over my department's teaching responsibilities for 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, congratulating myself for being so on top of things that I had planned the next two year. But then the little irritating voice in the back of my head began to get louder and louder and ever more clear. I looked closely at the schedule and had a distressing realization. Despite that fact that my department faculty is half women (unfortunately that will drop to one-third in the fall), graduating CS majors are likely to have had only one intermediate or upper level course taught by a woman.

Why is this? you might ask. Well, an interesting situation has evolved. We basically have three groups of courses: Group 1: a large number of introductory courses (six different theme-based CS1 courses); Group 2: a set of intermediate courses that students can take after the intro – a CS major can count only one of these, but non-majors, CS minors, and computational methods minors can count many; Group 3: the intermediate and upper level courses that are taken by majors. Guess what. The majority of Group 1 and Group 2 courses are taught by the women faculty. But the only Group 3 courses taken by majors that are regularly taught by women are the courses that count toward the theory requirement. Everything else in Group 3 that is offered on a regular basis is usually taught by a male faculty member.

So, is this the result of some concerted calculated effort by a group of male computer scientists? No! I've been making the schedule every year for the last seven years! But then why did this happen? My guess is that the women in the department have been more enthusiastic about recruiting new students through the cool intro and non-majors intermediate courses, and the men have been more comfortable sticking with the tried and true courses that you usually find in a CS major.

What will we do about it? Fortunately, I have a giant spreadsheet of everyone's teaching preferences, so I know exactly what courses they are willing to teach, and we can start to mix it up more. And when I stop being department chair and teach more courses I'll take on more of those upper level courses. That should balance things out a bit.

But I think there's a lesson here. Be ever vigilant, because there's always a deeper level of analysis you can do before you decide that you've truly addressed the gender issues or the women in computing question. I don't think that you have to have women faculty in order to recruit women into CS, but if you have women faculty then they really should be well represented at every level of your curricular structure, both in K-12 CS as well as at the college level.

Lesson learned here. I hope I'll have better news down the road!

Valerie Barr
Chair, CSTA Computational Thinking Task Force

Posted by cstephenson at 10:56 AM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2011

Sock Monkey Learns About Knitting and Algorithms

Here, Renee Ciezki is showing Sock Monkey how a knitting pattern is actually an algorithm. Renee is a member of the CSTA Leadership cohort. She teaches in Arizona.


Posted by cstephenson at 05:20 PM | Comments (0)

May 09, 2011

Equity Part II: The Multiple Dimensions of Implementing Equity

In a previous blog entry, I argued that we should address equity in computer science from a civil rights perspective, considering the importance of computing to all social and academic endeavors in the 21st century. I argued that rather than an economic framing; we need to address equity for what it is: an equal opportunity to fully participate in educational and social systems in our society. This, not future jobs, is the imperative to center equity in discussions around computer science education. In this blog, I will discuss what equity looks like within this social justice framework.

1. Availability of Courses for All Students in All Schools: Until computing courses are universally available in schools, severe equity issues will be pervasive. Bluntly put, without courses in the schools, students cannot easily access this content knowledge. With many schools in the U.S. being highly segregated by race and social class, data has shown that more affluent, White schools are much more likely to offer computing courses to students. A fundamental step towards making computer science more accessible is to build courses at all schools, so any interested student is able to learn about computing. I am not advocating that computing be required of all students, but instead, be available for any student who desires to access this critical 21st century knowledge, regardless of whether the student is college-bound or not.
2. Curriculum and Assessment must be tailored towards students in meaningful ways. The "one size fits all" approach to computing, for generations, has marginalized students of color and females. We cannot simply bring underrepresented students into "traditional" classroom spaces and expect them to engage in a curricular model that has typically captivated the intrests of only a small sample of the population. Instead, curricular resources need to be created to reach the interests and prior knowledge of particular minority communities and girls. This type of resources could include materials such as Ron Eglash's culturally situated design tools to showcase the cultural dimensions of computing. A second approach would be to include project-based curriculum that encourages students to draw from their own community knowledge to examine social and environmental issues through a computing perspective. Curriculum and assessment must be carefully developed to highlight the multiple ways of knowing , and showing, students bring to classrooms.
3. Teachers must be supported in developing an inclusive pedagogy that is effective for engaging girls and students of color. Moving towards an inquiry-based teaching strategy has been shown to be effective for reaching underrepresented students in computing and in other STEM disciplines. Having pre-service opportunities and professional development workshops that help communities of teachers sharing strategies for teaching underrepresented students, English language learners, etc. is critical in developing these pedagogical skills.

These three elements are part of a cohesive whole, and must be tackled together. If particular organizations, universities, schools, or industries are firmly committed to working towards equity in computer science education, the action plans must address all three of these dimensions in an integrated method to make real change.

Or, perhaps there are more dimensions? What other dimensions might people consider when working on equity issues in K-12 computer science education?

Joanna Goode
CSTA Equity Committee Chair

Posted by cstephenson at 12:49 PM | Comments (1)

May 05, 2011

Choosing Conference Sessions

The CS&IT Annual Conference is coming up and I am getting more excited all the time. As a computer science teacher, it's always been the best professional development I attend, as every session has something designed for teaching computing. This event is thought-provoking, useful, and always interesting.

In the last few years, the model of creating the program has completely changed, and with the help of Program Chair Duncan Buell, I wanted to crack open the lid and let you see some of the magic.

First, multiple reviewers read each submission and rated each on several criteria including quality and relevance to the CS&IT audience. Each reviewer was assigned a random selection of submissions, so each submission was read by different reviewers, with overlap to improve inter-rater reliability. This is how many conferences handle reviews.

Second Duncan went through the top 35 proposals, looking for anomalies, such as cases where all reviews were high but one which brought down the average, to verify that the numbers were reasonable. He also tried to notice if particular reviewers had been uniformly harsh or uniformly easy in an attempt to reduce the effect of "the luck of the draw" of which reviewers reviewed which proposals.

Then he started working to figure out which of the top submissions would be in the final program: "In my experience, the first 6 to 10 of 20 would be fairly obvious. The next five or so might be reasonably easy to pencil in, and then it gets tough."

The goal is to have a diverse set of offerings from a diverse set of presenters. For example, two of the top 35 proposals were about the new AP Principles course. Given that we only have 20 sessions, the choice was made to offer only the top-rated proposal about AP Principles rather than having two sessions about the new AP and miss out on a presentation about something else. Some proposers submitted multiple ideas, and often only one was chosen, particularly when what looked like the same submission came in as a one-hour and three-hour option.

Finally the committee organized the top sessions into the program, whittling it down further to make sure that each time slot has a diverse set of offerings likely to appeal to different attendee populations.

I think they've done a wonderful job and I hope you will agree. If you haven't signed up yet, hurry up and do so! I look forward to seeing you in New York this summer.

Michelle Hutton
CSTA President

Posted by cstephenson at 03:31 PM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2011

Sock Monkey and Scratch

Last week Sock Monkey attended the National Science Foundation Working Group on High School Introductory Computer Science where he had the pleasure of meeting Mitch Resnick, LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research and head of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab.

Here Mitch is Introducing Sock Monkey to Scratch.


Posted by cstephenson at 03:28 PM | Comments (1)

May 02, 2011

Making Computer Science Relevant

As computer science educators, we see the need for computer science education. There is an element of self-interest, but we believe computer science knowledge and skills are among the most essential ingredients of a modern education.

It is frustrating, therefore, when legislators, school administrators, and the public do not "see the light" and embrace computer science as a valuable 21st century skill. Curriculum reflects our values and it is obvious that our societal values have not changed to include computer science knowledge as compulsory and not elective (along with other subjects we don't think are worthy of mandating, such as art and music.)

No matter how one feels about it, the accountability movement controls educational policy in the U.S. And within the system we have, math and English are important, science is less important, and nothing else is important. If we want to be important, we can agitate for a change in priority or we can hitch our star to things that are already considered important.

I have a theory that taught correctly, computer science could improve math scores. Programs such as Bootstrap are already using computer science to improve kids' math skills.

What do you think?

Can we work within a framework of math (or English or science) to teach fundamental computer science skills?

Would this enhance other disciplines?

Michelle Hutton
CSTA President

Posted by cstephenson at 03:21 PM | Comments (1)